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Horror movies tend to exploit people’s basic emotion of fear and anxieties in their delivery of suspense and scares to the audience. There are different levels and types of horror that directors and creators of movies use in their films. Directors may use suggestive horror or explicit horror, each of which has a different effect and reaction from the audience. In explicit horror, the film shows the actual cause of the scare such as the monster in highly graphic detail. Suggestive or implicit horror, on the other hand, relies on the fear of the unknown. The audience does not see the scare or the monster itself. These films depend on the imagination of the viewers in delivering the scare because they do not see the monster. This leaves much room for imagination and in many cases is more effective than explicit impressions of the monster shown in the movie. Horror movies exploit the socio-cultural fears and anxieties that are implicit in people such as the fear of witchcraft and other supernatural activity. Using these techniques, the movie delivers its content by letting the audience imagine the nature of these phenomena because people do not have any visual idea of them. This paper will explore the use of suggestive horror in two movies, Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project.
How ‘The Blair-Witch Project’ Depicts a Provocative Take on the Notion of Mockumentary
Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez produced the Blair Witch Project in 1999. The film starts with the disappearance of three student filmmakers in the woods, in Maryland. During their disappearance, the students were making a documentary about a woman accused of witchcraft in 1785, she was banished from Blair Township and later all her accusers disappeared, and she was accused of the disappearance. The students were trying to uncover the legend of the Blair Witch.
The film commences with the introduction of the students as they prepared for the trip to woods of Blair Township. Their spirits at the beginning were high and cheerful as they expected a fulfilling and educative trip. However, during the trip, their spirits were broken and they start getting frustrated, suspicious, and terror. The movie uses the footage of the students collected from the woods and depicts their actual reaction as they tried to uncover the unknown. The notion of a mockumentary is used in the film (Martin 41). What the audience sees is what the students see in their excursion of the woods. The film does not have graphic displays of horror through bloodshed or monsters. The movie only shows the footage collected by the students as they explore the deep and dark woods in search of the legendary Blair Township Witch.
The film does not deliver its content through explicit depiction of the supernatural forces in the woods; all that the audience sees is the fear in the eyes of the students and their voices. The directors also show horror though unexplained noises coming from the woods and the dark places that are everywhere in the woods. The true source of the horror is unknown but works through the imagination of the audience. In some cases, the film only shows a blank screen with unexplained sounds and scared voices of the students. The notion of a mockumentary is used in the film through showing the footage of the students as they make fun of some situations and happenings in the film. The notion of a mockumentary in the film is shown through the lack of graphic displays of the fear factor or the happenings in the film thus making the movie seem natural and causng fear on a psychological level, as opposed to visual horror. It manipulates human imagination and deep fears about supernatural forces (Prince 9).
The movie utilizes the imagination and delivers a sense of dread through the footage taken by students. The audience is absorbed in the film because they relate with the students in their excursion through their facial and voice expressions. The film does not employ scare tactics through high-level graphics and sound effects. The film does not show the Blair Township Witch or any of her powers in action but only the reaction of the students in the film towards these forces, which remain unknown to the audience throughout the film. The imagination of the audience is provoked through the footage of the students who had gone to the woods to find out the facts about the Blair Witchcraft Legend. Fear in the audience is sparked by reference to witchcraft, as opposed to witchcraft itself. It is not clear that witchcraft is involved or whether the Blair Witchcraft legend is a reality. People relate the happenings in the movie to witchcraft and the history of the place because the directors did not show any explicit relation between the fear in the characters and the history. Reference to the 1785 witch of Blair Township starts to spark fear and suspicion in the characters, eventually the suspicion degenerates into terror as they experience strange happenings that can only be attributed to the forces of witchcraft in the area. Reference to witchcraft in both the audience and the characters sparks scared reactions.
The movie paranormal activity is another horror movie that uses the depiction of the character’s footage in the film. The fear factor in the film is an unknown and unseen supernatural force that haunts the house of Katie and Micah. They put up a video camera to record the unusual activity that had occurred in the house the previous night. When they were sound asleep, the door swings slowly back and forth in its place. The film also delivers its horror through the footage found from the couple’s house after the incident. The fact that the audience never knows the actual source of the events occurring in the house leaves them imagining the worst out of the movie. The feeling of the haunted house catches all watching the movie not because of their view of the haunting force but because of fear in reference to supernatural activity and the phenomenon of the haunted house.
The movie uses a strategy of less is more as the audience is kept in suspense waiting for the scary jolt from the movie. Tension in the movie is built slowly as the characters Katie, and Micah get emotionally disturbed by the events in the house despite their skepticism about paranormal activity. What the audience sees is the occurrences captured by Katie or Micah on their camera or at night when the camera is left to monitor the occurrences in the house. Characters in the movie are trapped in their house creating a sense of claustrophobia, which is transferred to the audience. The bond of claustrophobia, which they cannot escape, connects the audience and the characters.
The movie ‘paranormal activity’ downplays the significance of shock by emphasizing suspense. Suspense is shown through unexplained movements on the bed or the depiction of shadows creeping across the walls. The director focusing on dread avoids the sadistic feeling generated by explicit horror films. Anxiety and inherent fear that people are familiar to is crystallized in the movie in order to deliver a dreadful experience to the audience. At the end , the audieence is left hanging with the issue being unresolved.
The movie also exploits people's deepest fears and anxieties through its setting in an enclosed place with creepy night sounds. The anxiety of a relationship between people of entirely different characters is also highlighted. The theme of difficulties in relationships is shown by the baggage of the demon that wants to possess Katie, which she brings into the relationship. The character of Micah is portrayed as being insensitive and brash but with the heart to help the fearful and helpless Katie. The setting of the movie inside the couple’s house presents them with nowhere to run or hide from the demon. The setting of the movie is scary because it depicts a home video, which makes it realistic. The shooting of the movie involved the shaky cam concept meant to depict that something is lurking in the shadows beyond the camera’s lens (Dixon 208).
The two films are similar because they exploit the found footage concept and are lacking in highly graphic content. Their intent is to utilize the imagination of the audience by using suggestive horror, as opposed to explicit horror. Reference to the demon in Paranormal Activity and the witch in The Blair Witch Project are the sources of the scare and not the presence of the supernatural beings themselves. They both exploit realistic common ground through everyday anxieties such as problems in relationships, fear of the dark and anxiety about unexplained events. The two films also leave the scary issue unresolved thus leaving the audience in a state of suspense, unlike most movies that end with the scare being resolved. This leads in the fear elicited from the movie haunting the audience long after watching the movies.
The difference between the movies is the setting because the Blair Witchcraft Project is shot outdoors in the woods. Paranormal Activity is shot inside the house of Micah and Katie. The fact that Katie and Micah cannot escape their predicament leaves them more vulnerable; thus, making the movie scarier than the Blair Witchcraft Project. The fear factor in both cases is similar and left unknown, however, in paranormal activity the demon targets them specifically while, in the other movie, the characters are haunted because of their being in the woods in what was Blair Township. The setting of the two movies also differs because the students in Blair Witchcraft Project set out for the adventure of uncovering the legend while, in paranormal activity, the fear and anxiety grips the characters from the comfort and intimacy of their home. Paranormal Activity stirs fear that is more realistic and deep seated than the Blair Witchcraft Project.
The films embody fears of the unknown in both cases whether people are interested in finding out or not (Worland 194). This makes the movies scary and effective because the unknown is always a reality, which people are sometimes too eager to uncover. The horror in the films is created by the fact that imagination is left to run wild in making out what the problem is. The films are effective because they use suggestive horror created from images and sounds that are familiar in everyday life. The fact that the issues are left unresolved by the end of the movie makes them realistic and makes the experience long lasting. These movies divulge from the common scary movies that exploit graphic displays of the evil character or the inhumane acts on the victims. Using suggestive horror, they utilize the psychological aspects and power of the mind to deliver strong feelings of fear and anxiety from everyday activities.